John Elway and Director of Player Personal Matt Russell recently conducted an hour-long fan forum where they directly answered questions from season ticket holder in a phone conference as well as with fans over facebook. While I didn't get to attend the forum personally, the mother-site posted a quick hits version of it which can be read here. It's an interesting read to say the least but one answer really stood out to me and that was when someone asked Russell about the defensive schemes Del Rio will be running. His answer,
"(Defensive Coordinator) Jack Del Rio really doesn’t believe in being exclusively 4-3 or 3-4. We’re going to match up the best we can week in and week out with the players we have on our team. Now if that’s 3-4 one week, we might show some 3-4, it might be 4-3 the next week. But it’s a very flexible defense that really works well with the players that you have on your team. You don’t want to force players into roles that they’re uncomfortable with or physically they can’t do. So Jack (Del Rio) is really good about taking the player, accentuating his strengths and playing him whatever we feel like is going to stop that team in any given week. … We're going to do some different things on defense that we're excited about."
What does this mean?
It means that there is a very good chance we might see some 3 down lineman and 4 linebacker sets this year.
At first this might seem far fetched but think back to last year when the Broncos went to their nickel packages. Miller moved up to the line and we would go with only 3 actual down lineman . We were playing a variation of the 3-5 defense (where the SAM moves up to the line instead of playing behind the LDE) which is just the nickel version of the 3-4 base meaning we've already seen glimpses of this new hybrid style defense from last year.
Now think about the talent we have on the front seven. Dooms, Von, DJ, Bannan, Wolfe, Vick, Warren, Woodyard, Ayers and Mays. Each guy I just mentioned is either better suited to the 3-4 and/or has a good amount of experience playing the 3-4. In fact I've read many an article over the past year stating the Broncos should go back to a 3-4 because of who we have rushing the edges. Think about it, Von and Elvis on the outside with Mays and DJ/Woodyard on the inside and a line of Wolfe, Warren, and Bannan. The only piece missing here is a bona fide nose tackle but I think either Warren or Vick could play the 1 technique, just see Jay Ratliff of the Cowboys. We've got both the personal and experience to pull off a 3-4 defense.
However this is not a post arguing that the Broncos should go back to a 3-4 but instead it's a post about the endless amount of formations, coverages, and blitz's we could come up with this year to confuse QB's and shut down numerous styles of defenses. We've got the personal to play both so why not use both. When we go up against a running team like the Chiefs or Raiders we can play the 4-3 primarily so we can get some extra grit on the line to help stuff the run and when we go up against a passing team like the Pats or Saints we can use the 3-4 a fair bit to help mask our blitz's and give both Brady and Brees looks they haven't seen from us yet. Not only that but the 3-4 can be used to help stop running QB's like Newton because it put's more speed on the field in the form of an extra linebacker.
Now I don't expect the Broncos to play both the 4-3 and 3-4 evenly, in fact it's almost a guarantee that we will be playing the 4-3 primarily throughout the season but that doesn't mean we won't see flashes of the 3-4 throughout the season just to spice things up here and there. Even listening to Russell it sounds like their could be games where we do play the 3-4 primarily.
The possibilities are endless this season. For example, with Doom being at 260 lbs we could put him at DE on either side and line up Miller at the OLB spot right behind him with Wolfe at the other DE spot and a linebacker like DJ or Woodyard to set the edge behind him. This way we get our two best pass rusher attacking the same side and forcing teams to commit extra blockers to their side which would leave Wolfe one-on-one with a tackle on the other side as well as a free linebacker to clean up anyone who tries to escape to their side. That's just one example and I could go on and on with more ideas but for the sake of time I won't. What do you guys think about this and do you have any ideas of your own?
I don't know about you but I've never been more excited for football to start then now. Do I still think expectations for this season are too high? Yes but that's because I still think this team is one more year of development and one more offseason away from being a serious contender. Even so I still think this team will be good and contend for at least the playoffs this year so you better believe I'm excited for football to return.
Go Broncos... Orange Crush FTW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!